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Rural transportation needs improvement, study finds

road-work-headerA recent report from a national research group shows that the U.S. rural transportation system is sorely lacking.

According to TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group, a recent study found that America’s rural roads, highways, rails and bridges fail to provide the necessary level of connectivity to many communities. It also found they are inadequate for growing freight travel.

The report stated that in 2013, 15 percent of the nation’s major rural roads were rated in poor condition, and another 39 percent were rated in fair or mediocre condition. In 2014, 11 percent of the nation’s rural bridges were found to be structurally deficient, and 10 percent were functionally obsolete.

“The nation’s transportation system is crucial for farm businesses, which are predominantly located in rural areas,” said Andrew Smith, Virginia Farm Bureau Federationsenior assistant director of governmental relations. “Farmers produce commodities that need to get to market, whether that’s across county or state lines or on the other side of the world.

“We need a safe, efficient system to get those goods to market.”

Rural communities include more than 72 percent of U.S. land and are home to approximately 61 million people, said Veronica Nigh, an American Farm Bureau Federationtransportation specialist.

“Transportation is essential in these communities for many reasons, including economic growth and stability,” Nigh said. “Rural transportation is really a three-legged stool relying on water, rail and roads. Without any of the three of those, our rural communities can’t thrive in the way that they really should. Those different segments of the transportation system that U.S. agriculture relies on are necessary to ensure our future successes.”

To make necessary improvements, Nigh said solutions are needed at the county, state and federal levels.

“The federal government is a critical source of funding for rural roads, highways and bridges,” but current federal transportation funding expired on May 31. “We need to come up with a long-term solution to provide adequate funding, and timely funding, to improve rural roads, highways and bridges.”